Stud: More tournament action

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

Poker tournaments have certainly come a long way since a handful of players showed up in the late '60s to compete in the fledgling WSOP. Play has increased exponentially since I popped onto the scene in the early '90s. Today, not only has the WSOP added many more events, but there are comparable tournaments in various other casinos around the world and online.

The television boom we have witnessed this decade has also helped promote poker tournaments. But there was poker on TV before this decade. As a teenager, I remember watching the Wide World of Sports, a show which had a penchant for televising odd events, which poker certainly was considered at that time. I remember watching a poker show because Gabe Kaplan was playing, and Welcome Back, Kotter was one of my favorite adolescent TV shows

My own tournament experiences have been positive. In only 25 or so events which I entered between 1992-2002, I made six final tables, placing 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th, all in Stud High and Stud Hi/Lo events. I have also had some smaller cashes in other live and online events.

What I remember most vividly about those WSOP finishes was that after each one, reporters came over to me and asked me "what I did" to place so high. Although I really wanted to give them some "pearls of wisdom," I could not. That's because I did not believe I did anything in particular, strategywise, other than play good, solid poker. I think those reporters were disappointed because they truly expected me to give them some hidden secret.

There aren't very many successful cash game and tournament players, even at the higher limits. So that is why these scribes were hoping to find out "my secrets." There are many players who will tell you that they apply different strategies in cash games (whether high or lower limits) than in tournaments. Personally, I do not. The only time I may vary my play, and err on the tighter side, is when I am "on the bubble" which means I am one spot away, or very close to, cashing.

On the flip side, I was never one who just "looked to cash." Yes, there is a sense of accomplishment when you have competed for many hours with very little break time, and now will be getting your money back plus a profit, small as that may be. Many players are very happy with that, and, there were times when I was as well, especially when I was short stacked on the bubble. It is a "mental victory" to cash, regardless of the buy-in and circumstances, so I do not want to discount that.

But the reality is that unless you are playing in a huge buy-in tournament, an event which has a large number of entries, or a rebuy event (which may have less entries but a high prize pool because of the re-buys), the big money is in the first three or so places. That is your primary goal in tournaments - to reach the big money.

These days, there are some tournaments which pay more spots, which make the prize payouts a bit more equitable for everybody. Personally, I have always favored paying less spots, but having more "bling" for the players who last.

To delve a bit more into my own tournament strategy, I just play the same as I would in cash games, whether those cash games have higher or lower ante ratios. I feel that is actually the "secret" to my success.

I say that because I noticed very quickly that many other tournament players change their strategy to try and adapt to what they felt was correct tournament play. I use that to my advantage. Some of those players use a strategy where they "gamble it up" early to try and get a large amount of chips and then try to coast, or to keep putting pressure on the shorter stacks.

Some famous players, like John Bonetti and Barbara Enright, have had lots of success with this brand of tournament play. But it's not right for me.

You tend to also witness more of their type of play in rebuy events, even from tighter players. Many players in those type of events feel that even if they go broke they can still rebuy as much as they want, so it "doesn't matter" if they go broke multiple times. I strongly disagree with that strategy, and will discuss this topic more in upcoming blogs.
Mostly, though, you will find players in tournaments (rebuy or standard) who tend to play tighter, for fear of getting knocked out and losing their buy-in. Although I do not agree with that strategy either, I understand it more than the other one.

Although I do appreciate erring in the direction of caution in tournaments, I have found
that these types of players may cash a bit more often, but rarely win or even place high enough in these events to make that strategy optimum. One example of someone I respect and who has employed that type of tournament strategy is Mike Sexton, though Mike has admitted to opening his game up recently, with much success.

Again, as we have discussed in previous blogs, the key is to find out what works for you.

Although you may think that changing your game to play tournaments is the right way to go, it may not be, mainly because you are not playing your natural style. I think that players who mainly compete in cash games, and play fewer tournaments, would often be best suited sticking close to their normal ring game strategy, as it will keep them comfortable and confident.

Then of course, there are the tournament "specialists", who will compete year-round in tournaments and only sometimes (if ever) play in cash games. I will cover these types of players next week.

Until next time, you can find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games in our Stud section, as well as in our weekend $215 buy-in tournaments for Stud games. Please check the starting times of each of those events under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at See you at the tables!

Simon Young
@MrSimonYoung in Strategy